On Tuesday, the St. Louis Cardinals announced the signing of veteran catcher Rob Johnson to a minor league contract with the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds. The 30-year-old has received a non-roster invitation to the team’s 2013 major league spring training camp.
Next spring, Johnson could either win the reserve catcher’s job from Tony Cruz or serve as a veteran minor league reserve. Recently, long-time Memphis catcher Bryan Anderson became a free agent.
The Cardinals also announced that right-handed pitcher Kyle McClellan has been given his unconditional release. With the move, the Cardinals’ 40-man roster is down to 36 players. (For details, check out the Roster Matrix at The Cardinal Nation blog.)
McClellan, 28, was arbitration-eligible and likely in line for a raise despite an injury-plagued 2012. He appeared to have been squeezed out by younger, more promising relievers. The local product had been the longest-serving member of the Cardinals bullpen, having first reached the majors to open the 2008 season.
In 2011, McClellan opened the year in the rotation for injured Adam Wainwright, and went on to pitch a career-high 141 2/3 innings. He missed most of the post-season as a result of arm fatigue and was limited to just 18 2/3 frames in 2012 before requiring shoulder surgery.
The Cardinals’ 25th round selection in the 2002 draft finishes his St. Louis career having pitched in 261 games, all but 17 in relief. McClellan’s St. Louis ERA was 3.69.
Johnson had several short stints with the New York Mets but spent most of 2012 with their Triple-A Buffalo club or on the disabled list. He missed time with knee and thumb injuries last summer.
The right-handed hitter had been a member of the Seattle Mariners from 2007-2010. He was dealt to San Diego prior to the 2011 season, and made the club as their reserve catcher. Johnson signed a minor league free agent contract with the Mets prior to the 2012 season after becoming a free agent last October when refusing the Padres’ minor league assignment.
The 6-foot-1, 220-pound Montana native has compiled a .201 career batting mark with eight home runs and 62 RBI in 245 major league games. He batted .250 in 17 games with the Mets in 2012 before suffering a torn ligament in his left thumb that ended his season on August 20. Johnson refused an outright assignment by the Mets last month, and again became a free agent.
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Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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